A few weeks ago I went to see the Mister Rogers movie “Won’t you be my neighbor?”, and I LOVED IT!!!
As you know I’m a big Mister Rogers fan – from the time I was a kid to when I started watching it again with Maddie Rose a few years ago. While she has moved on to the Magic School Bus, I still think about the teachings of Mister Rogers and of his soft gentle way. I savor the memory of the sweetness, the kindness, the honesty, the slowness, the quietness that Mister Rogers created and exuded – it is so amazing and refreshing.
Two things struck me so deeply after watching the move. One was his ability to be completely present with whomever he was talking to. He listened so fully and attentively to every word, regardless of whether it was a 3-year-old trying to find the right words to express herself or an adult with a differing point of view. He gave them each his fullest attention and was so completely engaged and present with them.
It really made me think of how often I might half-listen to Maddie or Jonathan or rush Maddie through a game of make believe that she is deeply invested in.
It also made me think about the present-ness our practice tries to teach us. How often do we move through a vinyasa of Down Dog, Plank, and Baby Cobra, only to find ourselves back at Down Dog without any sense of what just happened? And how often do we drift off or fall asleep during Savasana and miss the glorious sensations of the body softening and releasing and melting into the ground, the breath quieting, the rush of thoughts stilling. How sad to miss these magical moments! This idea of staying fully present for your practice and for yourself was something that I’ve been exploring in my classes, and I would encourage you to do that too.
The other thing that struck me was something one of my students shared with after my above-mentioned-Mister Rogers-themed restorative yoga class. She shared with me how much she too loved Mister Rogers and how being an introvert in an extroverted world, she appreciated him valuing being still and quiet and slow. Rather than seeing those qualities as something to change, he embraced them and valued them.
“…I’ve never been a kind of a hyperactive, runaround kind of person. I think one of the greatest gifts that we can give anybody is the gift of one more honest adult in that person’s life – whether [the recipient] be a child or an adult.
“And so, for me, being quiet and slow is being myself, and that is my gift.” (Fred Rogers’ response in The Simplest Faith of Mister Rogers by Amy Hollingsworth.)
I think one of the many marvelous things about Mister Rogers was how well he seemed to know himself and how we has able to accept himself as he was. How many of us can really and honestly do that? I know for myself that is incredibly challenging. I often feel that me, as I am, is often not enough – not smart enough, funny enough, strong enough, creative enough, kind enough…you get the gist. Do you ever feel that way?
I’m not saying Mister Rogers didn’t have challenges. I remember reading that he would agonize over every script trying to make it perfect and relevant. But, to know that by nature he was quiet and slow and to see him embrace that and share himself as he was so fully and honestly is inspirational and aspirational. That he made his career off of being who he was, at his deepest core, and never strayed far from that or his values makes me think about how I could apply that to my life and work. Do I know myself that well, and am I strong enough and brave enough to really do that? That’s a big question…
And then of course to read the lyrics of his song...to have someone say this to you:
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you–
Not the things that hide you,
But it’s you I like–
Every part of you,
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself,
It’s you, it’s you I like.
What a game changer it would be if we fully internalized every word.
So dear friends, here’s what I’m wondering:
Those are my questions, not only to you, but to myself…
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